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WASHINGTON — This past week the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was renewed in the omnibus spending bill. The insertion into the spendng bill is significant because it failed to be renewed during the past three years after it expired in 2019. It is welcomed news in Indian Country because it kept the tribal provision. 

In addition to articles already covered by Native News Online, here is a roundup of other news released from Washington, D.C. that impacts Indian Country during the past week.

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Judiciary Committee Votes to Approve Sunshine Suzanne Sykes (Navajo) to be U.S. District Court for Central California

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, March 10, voted to approve Judge Sunshine Suzanne Sykes, a tribal citizen of the Navajo Nation, to be U.S. District Judge for Central California.

Judge Sykes has served as a California Superior Court Judge on the Superior Court of Riverside County since 2013. She currently presides over a civil litigation department and is the presiding judge of the appellate division. 

She was nominated to be a judge for the federal district court by President Joe Biden on Dec. 15, 2021.The nomination now goes to the full Senate for full consideration.

If confirmed, Judge Sykes will become the first Native American to serve as a federal judge in the state of California.

HHS Virtual Tribal Budget Consultation Set for April 6 – 7

The 24 th U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will conduct a Virtual Annual Tribal Budget Consultation (ATBC) on April 6 – 7, 2022. This year’s ATBC will be held on ZoomGov.

The consultation will provide a forum for tribes to share their views and priorities with HHS leaders on health and human services and to make recommendations on the FY 2024 budget request.

As in previous years, HHS will host 1-hour planning sessions for the consultation.

During these sessions, agenda topics and the structure for the 2-day consultation will be discussed and finalized.

The schedule of planning calls is:

  • Thursday, March 17, 2022 at 1:00 PM ET
  • Thursday, March 24, 2022 at 1:00 PM ET
  • Thursday, March 31, 2022 at 1:00 PM ET

Written testimony should be submitted by Wednesday, April 7, 2022. Testimony can be emailed to [email protected]. The consultation record will remain open for 30 days after the virtual session wherein additional testimony will also be accepted. Final written testimony will be due Tuesday, May 8, 2022.

Rep. Melanie Stansbury Calls for Federal Agencies to Recognize Tribal Sovereignty, Co-Management, Repatriation on Tribal Lands

Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.), a member of the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples, on Tuesday called on federal agencies to recognize tribal sovereignty, co-management, and repatriation of tribal lands in the management of natural resources in partnership with tribal nations during an oversight hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee exploring the history of federal lands and the development of tribal co-management.

The committee heard from three witness panelists, including Charles Sams III (Umatilla), Director of the National Park Service, Carleton Bowekaty, Lieutenant Governor of the Pueblo of Zuni and co-chair of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, and Kevin Washburn (Chickasaw), dean and professor of law at the University of Iowa College of Law. 

“As we have heard, New Mexico is home to 23 Indigenous communities, Tribes and Pueblos, which have been here since time immemorial,” said Rep Stansbury. “For thousands of years, they have lived on, worked the lands, cared for the lands, prayed on the lands. Those lands are Indigenous, and our landscapes tell the stories. Our federal lands including these landscapes - are sacred places, places that are still used for ceremonial purposes.” 

Rep. Stansbury asked Sams what he thought was the critical step to fostering co-management of repatriating lands and having tribes have a greater seat at the table

“I think, it's summed up in one word–education,” Director Sams responded“As you alluded to, much of this has been missing from our history books. And that understanding that Tribes are sovereigns.

FCC Extends E-Rate Filing Deadline for New Tribal Library Applicants

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Office of Native Affairs and Policy announced on Monday, March 7 that the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau extended the March 22 E-Rate application filing deadline for Funding Year 2022 by 65 days for new tribal library applicants.

The E-Rate program provides eligible schools and libraries with discounts of up to 90 percent on the costs of eligible broadband service, connections, equipment, and basic maintenance services.  For these applicants, the new application filing deadline is Thursday, May 26, 2022. 

Tribal Councils or Governments may designate a Tribal library provided that the library demonstrates it has three basic characteristics: (1) regularly scheduled hours; (2) staff; and (3) materials available for library users.  Tribal libraries may also continue to be designated by State library administrative agencies.

To submit an application by the May 26 filing deadline, Tribal library applicants should request bids for eligible equipment and/or services (using FCC Form 470) as soon as possible, but no later than Thursday, April 28, 2022.  

Funding Year 2022 runs from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023.

Neely Bardwell (descendant of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians), a Michigan State University student who is interning with Native News Online, contributed to these briefs.

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